There’s a saying that a successful business is ‘all about the show’, so come to Cara Mia Pizzeria where you will meet the entertainment experts.
Show business and restaurants may not seem like an obvious mix, but there are a few notable exceptions. The Gold Coast is blessed with a couple of excellent theatre/cabaret restaurants and historically with the de Vito family, who have entertained us with a couple of generations of singing chefs. But that’s about it.
Not anymore! Anthony Laffan, who recently opened Cara Mia Pizzeria with his wife Kasey, is an entertainment guru; an illusionist, comedian, hypnotist and MC. From the circus to cruise ships, and theme parks to casinos, Anthony and Kasey have entertained people throughout the world.
Even before we meet, I am sure that I have seen Anthony on stage (but I don’t know where). There’s a boyish charm to him that’s utterly engaging, even on the phone. In person, he’s like a younger, better-looking version of Gordon Ramsay without the etched wrinkles and foul mouth! And he’s much more endearing.
Anthony tells me of the highlights of his career performing on cruise ships on the Baltic Sea, in castles in Sweden and St Petersburg. One of the funnier moments as an illusionist included ‘burning’ a mobster’s US$100 bill, leading him to wonder whether he’d end the night overboard in concrete shoes! But he is here telling the tale so, as you can guess, there was a happy ending! (“Forget about it,” the gangster said as Anthony went to return the note. “You’re lucky my kids like you!”)
Anthony is the EKKA’s Head of Entertainment. Working as a cruise ship entertainer when COVID-19 hit, it was obviously time for a sea change, Anthony and Kasey settling to open a business as they raised their family.
After six months of research and development, they opened Cara Mia (literally ‘my beloved’), a 40-seat restaurant in Labrador’s Aqua building across from the Broadwater in October 2020.
Speaking to us on Cara Mia’s first anniversary, Anthony reflects on their journey:
“If the past 12 months has taught us anything, it’s that you have to ‘think global and shop local’. Our slogan is ‘Italian inspired – Australian Made’,” Anthony proudly tells me.
“While our family-run pizzeria honours Italian tradition, (such as traditional Italian 13-inch pizzas, a drinks list featuring Italian beer and wine, and even Italian music), everything about us is local and it’s been a winning strategy for us,” he says.
“For example, our bases are made from 100% Australian wheat, but with an Italian grind of ‘00’,” Anthony explains. “Making dough is a science. It takes 72 hours of attention and precision to get it right, resulting in a base with loads of flavour which our customers love.” And love it we do. We also discover the ‘Garlic pizza’, a unique taste sensation that will undoubtedly feature on our future orders.
A range of delectable pizza and pasta dishes, finger-smacking fall-off-the-bone ribs and tubs of gelato form Cara Mia’s menu, available as dine in, takeaway or delivery. The family is intent on providing great meals that are competitively priced, and though the restaurant carries a range of Italian wine and beers, you can also BYO. And as locals discover Cara Mia, it’s buzzing most dinner times, frenetic on weekends, so it pays to ring ahead with your takeaway order.
“Fresh locally sourced produce is another key to success. Our Mozzarella cheese is direct from dairy farmers in Caboolture, gelato from Maleny, fresh produce is local and even our pizza boxes are Australian made, not imported.”
“Our staff of twelve are all local students or family. The pizzeria is all about family. Kasey does the finances and chops the fresh vegies daily, Nona Sandy comes in every day to make the bolognaise sauce, and the boys fold the boxes on weekends,” Anthony says.
The Labrador area is home to a very diverse demographic, reflected in their choice of pizza toppings. Kids love ham and pineapple, a lot of guys want ‘meat lovers’, the ladies love chicken and avocado, or pumpkin, feta and pine nuts, and some younger diners love gluten-free with vegan cheese. Inspired by the seaside venue, ‘Marinara’ is the signature pizza, topped with freshly marinated seafood, garlic and lemon pepper.
However, food alone is not enough for a venue to succeed. What is important is the welcome, the camaraderie, the engagement with customers, and the sharing of ‘joie de vivre’. ‘The warm embrace’ is a mark of truly great hospitality staff.
Fortunately for Anthony, Kasey and the team it’s an area where they excel. In a suburb with plenty of pizza competition, Cara Mia’s hospitality alone makes them stand out. When we visit, Anthony is buzzing about, saying hello, serving customers and throwing in an extra here and there in celebration of their birthday.
“It’s all about the experience. Having come from an entertainment background, we had some skills in knowing what makes people happy, and the need to perfect your art, so we transferred our expertise into Cara Mia Pizzeria,” says Anthony.
“We just love our local customers. They are very special to us. We try to make them feel welcome, joke around and they have some fun. It makes the whole pizza experience special.”
And feeling ‘special’ makes all the difference.
Cara Mia Pizzeria, 300 Marine Parade (Aqua Building), Labrador, Ph: 07 5528 3326 Open: Mon – Sun 4:30pm-9:00pm
NOTE: Staff photo credit: Tommy Campion.
Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Cara Mia Pizzeria.